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Gender and Jeopardy
May 29, 2014 10:32 PM   Subscribe

Julia Collins of Kenilworth, Ill, is now the winningest woman in Jeopardy! history, the third winningest non-tournament player, and she isn't done. She'll be playing her 20th game tomorrow night, wherein followers hope she'll break the $400,000 mark on her steady climb. You can catch up on her run at YouTube.

One of the champions whose records she has now surpassed is Arthur Chu, who has also made big waves this week, speaking out on misogyny in geek culture, in response to the murders in Isla Vista. Writes Chu: The overall problem is one of a culture where instead of seeing women as, you know, people, protagonists of their own stories just like we are of ours, men are taught that women are things to 'earn,' to 'win.'

The show's history and the iconic host's banter seem to reveal that in terms of gender, Jeopardy! is not, as etymology would have it, "an evenly divided game," but could this be the year things change?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur (65 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
You go, madam! Win win win!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:37 PM on May 29


Okay, now that I've actually read the articles, I'm feeling rather ucked out at Mr. Trebek for the sexism.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:41 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I so hope that Arthur Chu and Julia Collins one day meet in the Tournament of Champions. The contrast in their demeanors and styles of play is fascinating. Chu with his use of the Forrest Bounce and aggressive wagering vs. Collins with her relatively standard play style and very conservative wagering. I'd love to see who would win.
posted by thack3r at 11:12 PM on May 29


Branding Arthur Chu
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:24 PM on May 29


Julia Collins seems comfortable in front of the audience and cameras and under pressure. And obviously she knows and remembers things well.

I wonder how much a comfort level and confidence have to do with the nearly instantaneous reaction time, both on the actuator thingy and the part of your brain that "recognizes" that you know the answer before it comes to mind. I hear the show moves really fast too.
posted by vapidave at 11:31 PM on May 29


Trebek looks painfully as if he is compelled to make a sexist remark whenever a woman is on the show. It is an example of the constant background sexism in our culture and I alway sigh at having to put up with it even to watch a game show I otherwise like a lot. Do men notice that he does this, I wonder?
posted by Anitanola at 11:47 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


Julia is introduced as a "supply chain specialist", and while you can guess the kind of stuff that entails we wanted to know more as she kept dominating. After like two weeks Alex asked her to explain what she did during the anecdote segment and she basically answered that she specialized in supply chains. That ended up with a lot of napkins and insults thrown at the TV (Jeopardy is pretty rowdy in my family).

What I love about players like Julia is how dominant they are. Everyone she faces did great on all the tests and auditions but look like chumps during the game.
posted by edeezy at 12:06 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Being from Kenilworth, she already sort of won
posted by C.A.S. at 1:18 AM on May 30 [7 favorites]


thanks for posting the arthur chu article. i had skipped over it a few times, but that was quite a read.

apologies if thats jerky, talking about HIS article in a thread about a notable lady jeopardy champion. but it really was an impressive article!
posted by young_son at 1:30 AM on May 30


Alex Trebek has to retire sometime... if Aisha Taylor doesn't get Ferguson's job, can we start lobbying for her to do Trebek's?
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:44 AM on May 30 [8 favorites]


We've been really enjoying Julia's performances ever since her first win. My wife and I both love how, with a couple of exceptions, she so quietly dominates the other competitors. It's like, you feel like you're watching a normal game, and then you blink and she's $10,000 or more ahead of her competitors, and you have no clue how she got there.

After like two weeks Alex asked her to explain what she did during the anecdote segment and she basically answered that she specialized in supply chains.

A few games ago, she went into a little more depth, explaining that she makes sure things got to where they need to be, when they need to be there. She then also told us that she's currently unemployed. I didn't get the impression she was unemployed when she started her run, but who knows? Hopefully, she didn't lose her job while on Jeopardy.

I believe she said she has a BA in art history and a Masters in engineering.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:03 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Oh, and, try closing your eyes and just listen to Julia play, and tell me she doesn't sound like Peggy Olson.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:07 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Okay, now that I've actually read the articles, I'm feeling rather ucked out at Mr. Trebek for the sexism.

He is always universally terrible to female contestants. You can almost see his hand twitch with the impulse to pat them on their heads for being so brave, bless their poor little lady hearts.

I wonder sometimes if it throws off female contestants.
posted by winna at 4:03 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I wonder sometimes if it throws off female contestants.

In my first game, no one got Final Jeopardy right. You know the shot during the closing credits when he stands there with the contestants, making chitchat? That was him lecturing us on how we should have gotten it right, it was so obvious, etc. It wasn't just the women - he was patronizing to all of us.
posted by candyland at 4:24 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Alex Trebek has to retire sometime... if Aisha Taylor doesn't get Ferguson's job, can we start lobbying for her to do Trebek's?

Alex was on a recent Nerdist podcast and did, indeed, suggest that his successor could (and maybe should) be a woman when Hardwick suggested Brad Rutter (which would be just awful, wouldn't it?). It was sort of surprising when you consider how consistently condescending he is toward women on the show.

On the one hand, he's a seventy-something white guy; I don't want to say "cut him some slack," but old habits die hard. On the other hand, it's really disappointing and you know that he knows better, or it's at least been pointed out to him.

We DVR the show and watch a few days delayed--I think we're at the end of last week, still--but it's good to hear that Julia is still winning. She really is a joy to watch. Like Thorzdad says, it always seems like just a regular game until you realize she's quietly stomping on the other contestants, even with conservative wagering on the Daily Doubles.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:43 AM on May 30


I've really been enjoying watching Julia play, too. I love watching a smart lady lay down the smarts on television! I like that she's so cool and humble about it but then I also feel like that is something trained into a lot of smart girls, to downplay your brainpower.
posted by bobobox at 5:02 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Alex Trebek has to retire sometime...

Trebek is expected to retire after the 2015-2016 season, when his current contract expires.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:27 AM on May 30


While we're on the subject of jeopardy ... am I the only one who was hoping that both challengers would finish in the red a few nights ago, so there could be an uncontested final jeopardy?
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:00 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


You were not the only one.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:30 AM on May 30


Yeah, Alex Trebek is consistently kind of creepy to female contestants.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:45 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I try to watch every weekday and it's gotten to the point where I get a little panicky whenever someone's ahead of her, because I don't want her to lose.

But they're always only ahead of her in the first round, and she's usually pulling ahead by the end of it. And then Double Jeopardy rolls around and she becomes a total shitkicker. Most of the games I've seen, no one even has a chance in Final Jeopardy because she usually has at least double the score of whoever's in second place, and she doesn't bet stupidly.

She can't keep it up forever, but I hope she keeps going for a long time. She's amazing.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:50 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


My favorite moment ever on Jeopardy was when someone responded to the daily double "The only two areas of skin on the human body where hair does not grow" with "The back and the buttocks". Alex said, "You obviously haven't been looking at my body lately." And absolutely no one in the audience made a sound.
posted by Hubajube at 7:39 AM on May 30 [18 favorites]


Growing up in Chicago, hearing the word 'Kenilworth" makes me think "wow...that measly $400k won't be able to buy her shit in kenilworth".
posted by hal_c_on at 8:25 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I'm a huge tennis fan, but I think I've been even more jazzed about her run than I am about the French Open. Guess Jeopardy nerdom > tennis nut.

At least three nights a week I don't get home until almost Final Jeopardy. But those YT vids of her games are helpful in keeping up. There's also a Jeopardy message board out thre.

And can someone tell me how in this day and age Jeopardy manages to keep it spoiler free?
posted by NorthernLite at 9:51 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I'm feeling rather ucked out at Mr. Trebek for the sexism.

Soooooo, I'm a former Jeopardy! contestant. I'm also female, and I did Jeopardy! when I was 25. So. Yeah.

When you are on Jeopardy! you get to meet Alex Trebek, obvs. I'm pretty sure he hit on me. But he was super charming about it (quoted an e.e. cummings poem at me), and damn, ITS ALEX TREBEK.

I don't know, end of the day, he just came off as a middle aged dude. Someone liable to hit on young female contestants and not exactly feminist of the year. Meh.
posted by Sara C. at 10:07 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Hopefully, she didn't lose her job while on Jeopardy.

They shoot five games a day, so that seems unlikely. She can only have been out there doing Jeopardy! for something like a week.

I'd speculate that she could have gotten a call from an irate manager who found out what she was using her vacation time for, but honestly everyone from work who knew I was taking a few days off to go be on Jeopardy! was really excited about it. One thing I've learned after being on Jeopardy! is that people pretty much universally love Jeopardy!
posted by Sara C. at 10:13 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure he hit on me. But he was super charming about it (quoted an e.e. cummings poem at me), and damn, ITS ALEX TREBEK.

I don't know, end of the day, he just came off as a middle aged dude. Someone liable to hit on young female contestants and not exactly feminist of the year. Meh.


I don't know. By LA standards, I've seen the white smoke, and we have a new Pope. He sounds pretty decent compared to other people in the industry whose tiny bit of regional power can we wielded to COERCE women take off their pants.

Also, if you've been watching jeopardy everyday since high school, you will know that alex oftentimes says odd stuff to contestants or accidentally insults someone who gave an incorrect answer. That canuck don't hate...he's just an awkward guy, off the cuff.

But hey, I'm pretty sure I can piece together a few youtube clips and show him to be some kind of klansman.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:50 AM on May 30


I have a feeling Collins is going to go on a while longer. After that whole big buildup about Chu while the Tournaments were running, he was gone before the regular shows even settled back into rhythm. Collins strikes me as being a much stronger player than Chu. She's faster on the button, doesn't shy away from the cultural questions, and bets like a champion. I'm really enjoying her run.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:04 AM on May 30


Also, replacement for Trebek is LeVar Burton.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:12 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


There's an entire tumblr blog full of Alex's passive-aggressive comments. He does it to everyone, not just women.
posted by Small Dollar at 11:14 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


The Chu article is really good. Thanks.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:18 PM on May 30


Trebek may be many things, but one of them is a bad-assed 74-year-old who, when a robber stole a bracelet given to him by his mother, chased the robber on foot and broke his Achilles tendon.

(Personally, I kinda love the little inadvertent snubs he sometimes gives, like when a player gives a wrong answer and he's all "Ahh, noooo ... everybody knows the correct answer is X." That must hurt so good to be on the receiving end of one of those.)
posted by jbickers at 12:20 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


chased the robber on foot and broke his Achilles tendon.

In the Nerdist interview, he tells a ridiculous story about shutting off a broken water main with one arm in a sling (he evidently does all his own home repairs, having bought "all the parts" from a hardware store in the Valley that was going out of business).
posted by uncleozzy at 12:27 PM on May 30


Man, I've been torn between being excited that a woman is doing so well on Jeopardy and sad she has beaten Arthur's record, since he's a pretty great guy (who I know IRL). As a trivia nerd I also like how much Jeopardy seems to be in the news these days.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:39 PM on May 30


Jeopardy tapes 5 shows in a day two days a week. So depending on where they were in the schedule I'm guessing she has taped, what, 4-5 days spread out over who knows how many weeks, at least 2 but up to 4-5 maybe, depending on how the tournament interrupted her taping. I'm sure she went home in between, but a person could easily lose their job over that amount of time for any old reason.

Trebek can certainly be an ass to everyone and one of my favorite things about watching Jeopardy are his awkward or condescending comments towards the contestants. What really gets to me though is the way he often sounds so surprised when a younger woman answers correctly what Trebek clearly believes to be a difficult question. They way he will say "you're right!" with such surprise, is so obnoxious and he doesn't do it to older women or men.
posted by ephemerista at 1:24 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Oh, shit I didn't realize they only tape two days a week. That might have stretched out her stay. Even so, it is highly unlikely that she lost her job because of Jeopardy! Especially since, like I said, people seem to have an absurd level of respect and excitement where Jeopardy! is concerned. I'm sure people would be less enthused to find out I was once a contestant on Wheel Of Fortune or Deal Or No Deal.
posted by Sara C. at 1:32 PM on May 30


According to this article from Shape magazine, she was doing consulting, and her winnings so far have allowed her to quit doing that.
posted by themanwho at 2:42 PM on May 30


I'd speculate that she could have gotten a call from an irate manager who found out what she was using her vacation time for

Holy crap, can employers in the US do that? What business is it of theirs how you spend your vacation?
posted by Hoopo at 2:53 PM on May 30


Also, replacement for Trebek is LeVar Burton.

What the awesome is going on!!!
posted by hal_c_on at 3:06 PM on May 30


hal_c_on: “Also, replacement for Trebek is LeVar Burton.

What the awesome is going on!!!”
Apologies. What I should have written is, "Replacement for Trebrek should be LeVar Burton." It is by no means a done deal.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:14 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I haven't watched Jeopardy regularly in years, but this year things aligned so I get to watch it again. Watching Julia quietly win for weeks has been fantastic. The thing I find most impressive about her is that she absolutely just does not get flustered. She gets a question wrong, and she just shrugs it off and gets the next one right. I think that's the real power in her. She just doesn't get thrown.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:07 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Not to derail from him being a bit misogynist, but YouTube some of his Classic Concentration episodes if you want to know how much he has changed over the years...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:26 PM on May 30


Oh my God, she put an exclamation mark after her name on the little screen on her podium. I love her so much.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:40 PM on May 30


> According to this article from Shape magazine, she was doing consulting, and her winnings so far have allowed her to quit doing that.

I like to imagine quiz show winners spend their days hustling strangers at bar trivia.
posted by Monochrome at 4:41 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Metafilter's Own candyland and Sara C.: that's so cool you were on Jeopardy! Would you mind linking to the J! Archive of your games?
posted by Monochrome at 4:44 PM on May 30


She changes the way she writes her name regularly. Facebook picture proof.

When she said her high school mascot was the snails and their cheer was "Go Go Escargot" I about died from the cuteness.
posted by ephemerista at 4:47 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


You can find a list of the Mefites who have been on Jeopardy in the wiki.
posted by ephemerista at 4:53 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


She changes the way she writes her name regularly. Facebook picture proof.

...jesus christ, the comments on that are fucking foul

on the upside: ONCE MORE THERE ARE NO STOPS ON THE JULIA TRAIN
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:57 PM on May 30


Today was the first time I really thought she might lose. She pulled it out, again, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:14 PM on May 30


comments on that are fucking foul

Ugh you are right. I didn't even look at them. Wow.

FJ was super tense for me. I was afraid when the camera coverage panned by her because it looked like she was second guessing her answer.
posted by ephemerista at 5:21 PM on May 30


I like to imagine quiz show winners spend their days hustling strangers at bar trivia.

It's not as lucrative as you think.
posted by Sara C. at 5:38 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Thorzdad: “Today was the first time I really thought she might lose. She pulled it out, again, though.”
I was sure we had jinxed her. What a poker face.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:03 PM on May 30


I'm glad I didn't jinx her!!! I was freaking out!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:37 AM on May 31


Twitter account dedicated to Julia's sweaters!
posted by ephemerista at 7:10 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Good interview with Arthur Chu on CBC's Day 6 this morning.
posted by sneebler at 9:56 AM on May 31


As of yesterday she has now won more consecutive non-tournament games than anyone else except Ken Jennings. She also tweets during every broadcast.
posted by Clustercuss at 10:19 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I've been enjoying her run, but the success made the internet much more dangerous in terms of spoilers. Normally I don't even have to worry about it. If I'm not seeking it out then I'm not going to hear anything about Jeopardy outside of watching the actual game. But since it runs at 7PM Pacific here, most of the country has already seen it by the time I get to and I'm seeing random news articles saying "Another win!" and so on before I even get a chance to watch it. I might have to disconnect from the internet until her run is up.
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:00 AM on May 31


Alex Trebek has to retire sometime... if Aisha Taylor doesn't get Ferguson's job, can we start lobbying for her to do Trebek's?

Actors whose careers have effectively washed up at times end up hosting game shows. I sure as hell hope Aisha's career status isn't that horrible or has she expressed interest in being a game show host?
posted by juiceCake at 8:25 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]


Eh, I feel like Jeopardy! is enough of a cultural institution, and occupies a particular sort of prestigious niche, that it probably wouldn't be a job for a "washed up actor". See for instance Drew Carey replacing Bob Barker on The Price Is Right. My understanding is that Drew Carey is so successful he essentially doesn't have to work. But dude, who'd turn down The Price Is Right?

That said, yeah, I'd love to see Aisha Tyler with her own network show, or doing something brilliant and outrageous on cable, or otherwise still contributing to the wider culture, before going straight to Jeopardy! I mean, Drew Carey took the game show gig after obtaining success for himself in more creative ways.
posted by Sara C. at 11:05 AM on June 1


Eh, I feel like Jeopardy! is enough of a cultural institution, and occupies a particular sort of prestigious niche, that it probably wouldn't be a job for a "washed up actor". See for instance Drew Carey replacing Bob Barker on The Price Is Right.

I feel otherwise. Drew Carey is a perfect example to me. He can't get a show or movie parts of any significance so one can turn to game shows. I'm not talking about the huge amount of money you can make doing so, just the shift from acting to hosting a game show. Obviously, perceptions differ. I feel in some cases, such as Aisha, it would be a waste of talent.

I feel the same is true for regular celebrities on game shows like Hollywood Squares and The Match Game.

That said, I'm all for anyone making money where they can, outside of illegal activity and some of the higher level stock/financial/banking sectors.
posted by juiceCake at 1:22 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


Sadly, Julia lost yesterday, beaten by an Irish giant. Her gameplay seemed really off throughout the game and, ultimately, she was undone by losing a "true" Daily Double. She never quite recovered after that. We'll see her again in the Tournament of Champions, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:43 AM on June 3


Sadly, Julia lost yesterday, beaten by an Irish giant.

After which Trebek apparently said "Well done, young lady" to the 31-year-old woman.
posted by lalex at 7:53 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


candyland: " In my first game, no one got Final Jeopardy right. You know the shot during the closing credits when he stands there with the contestants, making chitchat? That was him lecturing us on how we should have gotten it right, it was so obvious, etc. It wasn't just the women - he was patronizing to all of us."

Huh. My then-boyfriend went on Jeopardy and lost due to aggressive wagering in the final round (nobody got the question right). When he came outside afterwards, he said "That was the most humiliating experience of my life." Maybe the lecture-from-Alex part was part of it, because both the friend I'd been sitting with in the audience and I thought he'd acquitted himself credibly.
posted by Lexica at 6:43 PM on June 5


Speaking of gender and television: Shailene Woodley Talked About Gender Politics & Comparisons To Jennifer Lawrence On The Tonight Show But NBC Cut It Out
posted by homunculus at 3:47 PM on June 6


Weird, in my game, we all got it right and he praised us for knowing it.

Maybe he just hates it when people don't get Final Jeopardy.
posted by Sara C. at 4:09 PM on June 6


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